• 30 Degree
  • Serrekunda
#National News

Drama as Sonko’s Lawyer Request 4-Hour Preparation Denied

The past two days’ session at the Federal Court in Bellinzona is swirling into a drama upon drama, as Sonko’s lawyer seems to be feeling pressure mounted by revelations against his client, of abuses and human rights violations. Court had to adjourn on Friday morning as the lawyer presented a last-minute medical certificate, after his earlier request for a four-hour time to prepare for questioning was not approved by the Judges.

A witness had testified to personal harm experienced at the hands of the torturers at the infamous NIA and had put Sonko right at the center of it all, during a testimony on Friday. These bodily harm included breaking an arm of the detainee while under NIA following arrest by the Police and handed to the agency in 2006; bodily cuts on the face through a military bayonet, electrocution and beatings,  just to name a few that Sonko had knowledge of, in fact, being the one addressing the detainees to “go to your families and forget what happened here. It was a mistake.”

These all came after he had spent the past two weeks denying he had any responsibilities in the torture and human rights violations meted to opponents of Jammeh, and blaming it all on operatives who were answerable to the former President. He said he only played a political role in the whole process as Minister of Interior. His lawyer on Thursday afternoon had asked for time to examine documents presented by this witness’ lawyers to further corroborate claims made by the witness, that were in fact made during investigative process of this case some five years ago. The court had said that time would not permit such an excuse and trial must continue.

“The defence lawyer has presented a medical certificate and said he is incapable of making appearance today… The entire defence team is absent,” the President of the Judges panel announced on Friday morning.

Sonko’s lawyer, a big shot at the Geneva bar association and member of its Human Rights Commission, also practices at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He runs a law firm in Switzerland and had served as legal adviser to the Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and former Secretary-General of the International Criminal Bar. He is working hard to provide the best defence Sonko could get against the alleged crimes-against-humanity charges he is battling at the court here in Bellinzona.

However, his absence following the refusal to grant his request for preparation to question the said witness has raised doubts to his level of preparedness. “If he is not prepared enough for this case, he shoudk not have taken it,” said a lawyer.

“The witness did not say anything new. I think he is just unhappy and got overwhelmed with the revelations from the testimonies. His defence team has other lawyers to be present if he is sick. But none of them showed up this morning and they just sent an intern to the court. It’s just a sabotage,” a frustrated member of the team of lawyers representing the victims, said in the morning on Friday.

An official communication from the Court to accredited journalists in Belinzona stated that, “The hearing was interrupted due to circumstances preventing appearance of the defence attorney and it is scheduled to resume on Monday, January 22, 2024 at 08:30.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *